Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
30 Mar

Quitting Rice

It’s Friday, everyone! And that means another Primal Blueprint Real Life Story from a Mark’s Daily Apple reader. If you have your own success story and would like to share it with me and the Mark’s Daily Apple community please contact me here. I’ll continue to publish these each Friday as long as they keep coming in. Thank you for reading!

I hesitated to share my story since before I started The Primal Blueprint (PB), I was already a fairly healthy 22-year-old, so my transformation simply cannot compare to those that have lost weight in the triple digits and literally cured diabetes. However, I decided to write out this story after some encouragement from my friends, and I do believe that my transformation is incredible in its own right: particularly, the results materialized so quickly. I’m writing this after less than 4 months of following PB. Moreover, I don’t see many success stories involving my ethnic group, Asians, probably because of the importance of rice in our culture. One of the most common critiques that I hear is “look at all those skinny Asians who gobble down rice.” I wanted to show that there exist substantial benefits to toning down the consumption of rice.

My story starts in my senior year of college. After four years of college, I had put on 20 pounds, reaching 160, which was slightly overweight considering my height of 5′ 5″. Furthermore, the acne that I assumed would disappear with time still persisted from my high school years. You can see me as a college senior.

When I graduated, I decided to make my health a priority and threw myself fervently into the Conventional Wisdom (CW) approach. For 5-6 days every week, I would exercise splitting my time about 50-50 between cardio (in the form of running) and strength training (mainly pull-ups, squats, and bench press). As for diet, I ate my whole grains, lean protein, low-fat dairy, and upped my fruits and veggies. The results were slow, but over the course of about 3 months, I managed to lose 10 pounds. Suddenly, progress stopped. I stayed the course with this regimen for 2 months, and my weight remained unchanged. In addition, I doubted my ability to sustain this volume of exercise: I constantly felt tired. You can see the results of CW.

Around this time, I stumbled upon Mark’s Daily Apple when looking for ways to increase my ankle mobility (I was having trouble squatting low, which I have also since remedied). I began to dig deeper into this concept of “Primal Living,” and I found much of it, particularly the bits about insulin and cholesterol, aligned with what I had learned in my college Biochemistry class. Suddenly, I began to look through the lens of evolution, connected the dots, and realized that something has gone awry with how humans interact with our environment. For instance, I discovered that high-carbohydrate diets have been linked to myopia. In terms of evolution, it makes no sense that I was wearing glasses by the time I was 7, and myopia among Asians is the norm. Perhaps, we don’t store fat the way Westerners do, but I sincerely doubt our carbohydrate-rich diet is harmless.

Frustrated with the CW approach and being young with not much to lose, I figured that I would give PB a try. Rather than ease in to the PB, I dove all-in, dropping grains immediately. When I got the low-carb flu, I doubled down and ate more fat. I had an awful case of the flu that lasted nearly 3 weeks, which indicates that I was very insulin-resistant at the start. After 6 weeks, I decided to check my progress, and I couldn’t believe the results. I had already reached my goal weight of 140! That was my weight back in high school when I played tennis and soccer, but I found myself even leaner then than my former 18-year-old self. I’ve managed to stay the course, adding in things like organ meats and intermittent fasting (which for me tends to mean simply skipping breakfast), and have made even more progress as you can see.

The ease of PB has surprised me the most. Fat tastes delicious, so I eat better-tasting food. I don’t go hungry because I simply eat until I’m full instead of counting calories. I work out even less than before: most weeks I lift 3 days and sprint 1 day. If weather permits, on the weekend, I may run 3-4 miles, but this happens maybe only once a month in Boston during the winter. I’d say that the only difficult thing was learning how to cook, but I view it as a fun challenge and a chance to experiment. Furthermore, the 80/20 rule allows me ample chances to deviate without feeling guilty.

Like many, I started PB for weight-loss reasons and have discovered other numerous benefits. Not only have I lost weight, but also I have gotten stronger as measured by my weight room gains, I recover faster from hard workouts, and my skin is much better as one can see. Most importantly, though, my energy levels are more stable, which has made me more productive at the office. Not being a slave to eating three square meals per day and having too much energy to sit still and watch TV has afforded me the time to do things I enjoy like reading, cooking, and mathematics.

All in all, through this experience, I have become convinced that “Primal Living” is the right way to live. If my example can even inspire one person to convert, I’ll feel that I have spent my time well writing this.

Thank you Mark!

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. Nice work! It’s awesome to see benefits besides just “weight loss” as you mentioned. Interesting hypothesis about myopia, makes sense though. Thanks so much for sharing, now I have a story to point my Asian friends to!


    Nick wrote on March 30th, 2012
    • Great story! Well done.

      Did your eyesight improve? I wonder if it might. I stopped eating gluten grains many years ago, after being diagnosed as non-celiac gluten intolerant. I was surprised that after a few years, I was not seeing as clearly as before, but a regular eye exam turned up that I needed a weaker prescription whereas I had been thinking I would need a stronger one.

      Violet wrote on March 30th, 2012
      • That’s an interesting question about the eye sight. I read another blog post from a woman whose vision improved after doing a 21-day “water” fast.

        Emily Cressey wrote on March 30th, 2012
      • I am so glad he shared this story! I found my eyesight improved after a few months of going grain and sugar-free. I no longer needed as strong a prescription, and I work with an osteopathic doctor who checks my eyes and he said they were actually less stressed without the glasses. I think getting enough rest and relaxation was a huge contributing factor as well, cause I will notice that i can’t see as well when I am stressed out.

        Lily wrote on March 30th, 2012
      • Grains are starchy carbohydrates. Carbs turn into sugars. Higher sugars get into the lenses in your eyes. When the excess sugar leaves your lenses, your eyesight changes.

        vmpenny1 wrote on March 30th, 2012
    • More likely the prevalence of myopia in Asian children is the lack of Vitamin D/sunshine, as written about by Mark here:

      (no direct link because it takes too long for links to get approved.)

      My brothers all played outside while I stayed indoors to read, and yes, I’m the only sibling who had to wear glasses starting in second grade.

      Asians’ aversion to sun is having widespread repercussions, including myopia, osteoporosis, and perhaps even autism (more will be coming out with that connection in the future, I am sure of it.)

      Hillside Gina wrote on March 30th, 2012
      • Also, reading for long periods with the book close to your face (which I have ALWAYS done… and still do), and genetics are a big factor. I got a lot of sun as a beach-going, outside-playing kid, but good eyesight just wasn’t in the cards for me. More than one reason for it!

        Ali wrote on March 30th, 2012
      • I stayed inside a lot and I didn’t get myopia. It was weird–my dad’s worn glasses for as long as I can remember (point of reference: he was 22 when I was born), and my mother had lazy-eye and glasses as a kid and then had to get them again later (she’s also now diabetic), but when I went to get my driver’s license removed they told me I am still 20/20. I need to go get my eyes actually checked, I know better than to just trust the BMV, but so far so good.

        And for the record, Asia is a big place and lots of Asians live in the tropics–kind of tough to miss the sunshine.

        Dana wrote on March 30th, 2012
        • Dana, in many Asian countries, children are in school and after school in tutoring schools until night time. Women shun the sun and worship pale skin – look up pictures of the famous Korean beach in Pusan – people wear long sleeves, long pants, scarves, hats and gloves and sit under umbrellas or go into the water clothed. It’s reached a full-on fever pitch, a madness. Side-effects of this sun- aversion are just now being noticed. Osteoporosis, myopia, ties to autism, the list will continue to grow. I only have experience with Korea and Japan, where the young stylish girls put on thick sunscreen with spray-tan on top! The top seller in cosmetucs in much of Asia is skin lighteners – to get rid of any freckle or other sun spot.

          The children suffer from studying all day so they can get good exam scores to get into the best schools. Yes there us the factor of reading all day, but the ties to lack of sunlight are there.

          Hillside Gina wrote on April 1st, 2012
      • Oh and I’m 38 this year. Should have added that in. At my age a lot of people are already in reading glasses, minimum.

        Dana wrote on March 30th, 2012
      • My eyesight improved after going primal without any change in Vit D/sunshine intake!

        nikki wrote on March 31st, 2012
      • Not so sure about that, I’m one of 8 sibblings who grew up around the ecquador in terms of lattitude so we had strong sun., From eight children I am the only who needs eyeglasses and very strong ones too. I was a bookworm like you but I always read outside in the backyard from around 1 to 5 pm.

        I have 3 other bookworm sibblings, butv they were the lazy kind who hated to go to the “nasty” outside, they were indoors all the time but they do not ever needed glasses.

        I am the youngest and by the time I camr around my family was starting to eat imported and processed foods for their convinience, which were replacing my mom’s traditional food, for example corn flakes for breakfast instead of cheese, milk, eggs…

        Sorry about typo, I,’m on cell phone!

        Sunshine wrote on April 3rd, 2012
      • I have read it’s to do with being outside as a kid, but just the effort of looking at things far away. Being outside while you’re growing affects ocular development by placing emphasis on long range focusing, rather than very close focusing as you’d do reading a book or watching TV. Societies where people spend the majority of time outside either working or socializing have very low levels of myopia. Supposedly, it’s not things like reading that cause myopia, but a lack of long range focusing. So being outside is the ticket, even if you stay in the shade.

        Autumn wrote on May 20th, 2012
  2. Woah, dude! Good for you for jumping into eating more fat right away when you got the low-carb flu. It takes a lot of folks a great deal of time to get over their fear of fat. Awesome work!

    Abel James wrote on March 30th, 2012
  3. You look awesome, good job

    Carlos wrote on March 30th, 2012
  4. This is a great story. I am a teacher because I love learning, and you just taught me something about mypoia.

    Thank you!

    Nicole wrote on March 30th, 2012
    • Can anybody point me to a resource for the studies linking myopia to high carb diets?

      Primal Texas wrote on March 30th, 2012
      • Here is a link:

        The article is, ‘An evolutionary analysis of the aetiology and pathogenesis of juvenile-onset myopia’ and looks at high insulin levels. (I only looked at the abstract here on PubMed.)

        (NB: The link is from a comment by healthyengineer on Mark’s article on sunlight and vision on 28 June 2011

        Violet wrote on March 30th, 2012
      • Seconded, I would love to read more about this. I have been intrigued since I read a (completely unverified and dodgy) account of someone not needing his glasses after 4 weeks of a strict paleo diet. The connection with Asians and how much rice they eat is interesting too.

        AngloPaleo wrote on March 30th, 2012
        • I’ll be the first to admit that the research in this area is nascent and rather inconclusive. However, it is well know that Type 2 Diabetes leads to macular degeneration. I believe the proposed mechanism is the formation of Advanced Glycation End Products, which can be linked to high-carbohydrate diets. The exploding rates of myopia definitely make you wonder, though. It could not have been evolutionary favorable to be unable to see things that are far away. Most research has shown near work is not a significant cause, so some environmental factor must be at play here.

          Philip Pham wrote on March 30th, 2012
        • Another angle on all these kids needing glasses now, is that we are over-relying on plants for our vitamin A when no plant contains that vitamin. Unfortunately, there’s been some small research done pointing to the possibility that almost half the population (at least in the U.S. and UK) is not able to convert enough beta carotene to rely on it for all their vitamin A needs. Yet how many people do you know who still eat liver? Yeah, they probably get dairy, but (1) they’re not eating a lot of animal fat and (2) have you seen the amount of vitamin A in milk? There’s not much, even with enrichment. Scary stuff.

          You see a lot of kidney defects too, and other urinary tract defects. The Mayo Clinic says UT defects are the most common class of birth defects in the United States. Urinary tract development is mediated by vitamin A. Kidneys get finished up later in the pregnancy than eyes. Probably a good thing too; otherwise we’d be seeing babies born eyeless instead of just myopic.

          Dana wrote on March 30th, 2012
  5. Haha, love your subject header. And congratulations on the success! You look happy, healthy and strong! :)

    sapphiric wrote on March 30th, 2012
    • Haha I agree. Great Title

      Becca wrote on March 30th, 2012
  6. Congrats on your weight loss!

    Do you avoid white rice completely or do you just eat it less? If you do eat it, when? After a workout or is it just part of your 80/20?

    Primal Toad wrote on March 30th, 2012
    • Thanks. I pretty much completely avoid it unless I’m traveling, and I have no other choice. After giving it up for so long, I don’t even know why I liked it so much in the first place—it’s so bland. I suppose we’re all just afraid of change. If I need carbs, I prefer sweet potatoes.

      Philip Pham wrote on March 30th, 2012
      • An asian giving up rice? This is about as controversial of a topic as it comes for our race. hahaha! But seriously, great testimony of how you can feel different in such a short time. You inspire me to cut out rice completely.

        Liveone wrote on April 1st, 2012
  7. another great story! I love seeing the variety of experiences that people have with primal.

    Real Food RD wrote on March 30th, 2012
  8. Great story. I also love the variety of success stories and hearing about people’s journeys.

    Rachel wrote on March 30th, 2012
  9. WOW!! I love the progression of grin size in the pictures 😀

    peggy wrote on March 30th, 2012
    • +1!

      spincycle wrote on March 30th, 2012
  10. I think you’ve pointed out the most important things about Primal living. So many of us started as a way to lose weight- which means do it until you’ve lost the weight and then resume your previous poor eating habits. But then there’s that Aha! moment when you realize that this is the way your body wants to be fueled, and you know you never want to go back.
    Another great Friday story!
    Am I crazy, or is my hair getting curlier?

    Kathy wrote on March 30th, 2012
  11. Fantastic job — intriguing detail about myopia. I always thought mine was propelled by childhood reading my kerosene lantern. Hmmmm

    You look happy, good on ya.

    Jessica wrote on March 30th, 2012
    • Yep, theres myopia for you. I meant to say “from” childhood and “by” kerosene lantern.

      Jessica wrote on March 30th, 2012
  12. Hi you look really good and congrats!
    Yes a study was released just last week linking the development Type 2 Diabetes and increased rice consumption

    Also i did not know high carb was linked to myopia(nearsightedness) too. Interesting!

    Gayle wrote on March 30th, 2012
  13. I love that he said he has time to do mathematics for fun. Nerd power!!! (I’m a math/physics nerd so I mean that in a good way) We nerds are definitely attracted to the primal lifestyle.

    Stephanie wrote on March 30th, 2012
    • Nerd power indeed! I found the scientific evidence to be too strong to not give this a try.

      Philip Pham wrote on March 30th, 2012
      • Haha – right there with you. I’m a conservation biologist/ecologist with a strong interest in evolutionary ecology, so as soon as a friend directed me to a link on Mark’s Daily Apple a few months ago, I was hooked. Look! Quantitative Evidence! Qualitative Evidence! He links back to PubMed! This is the nerd diet, no doubt about it.

        Also, you look fantastic, congratulations.

        Claire Steele wrote on July 25th, 2012
  14. Impressive transformation Phil. Very inspirational seeing you transform first hand and you have helped me spread the word!

    Patrick wrote on March 30th, 2012
    • Whoa! How’d you know his name was Phil?

      Jasmina wrote on March 30th, 2012
      • mouse over the “6 weeks primal” photo…

        Paul wrote on March 30th, 2012
        • Philip

          Mark Cruden wrote on March 30th, 2012
  15. Hey congratulations! Great to see a story that doesn’t focus on weight loss so much and seeing the other benefits PB can provide. You’re right, just because you’re skinny, doesn’t mean you’re healthy and certainly it doesn’t mean optimal. Great job!

    Alison Golden - PaleoNonPaleo wrote on March 30th, 2012
    • Exactly. Poor diet can manifest in a body in SO many ways. It’s not fair to just pick on the fat people. I was a skinny junk-food eater before I had my first child. I should have been yelled at *then.* Or at least encouraged in a better direction.

      …Unfortunately, that was the early nineties, a bit early for Paleo/Primal.

      Dana wrote on March 30th, 2012
  16. I so needed this perspective regarding rice. I love the chart and the progression of the photos. You look splendid!

    Joy Beer wrote on March 30th, 2012
  17. Way to go!

    Paul Alexander wrote on March 30th, 2012
  18. Thanks for sharing your story, it IS an inspiring one! I have noticed my vision improving (I only started wearing glasses four years ago) since reducing and finally cutting out grains completely. I’m glad to see there is a viable explaination :-) Thanks again!

    yoolieboolie wrote on March 30th, 2012
  19. A hot nerd! My favorite! (Lucky me, I’ve got one at home.)

    Congrats on your success!

    Beth wrote on March 30th, 2012
    • Yes isn’t that ideal! :)

      Gayle wrote on March 30th, 2012
  20. A great story – thanks so much for sharing. Am liking the stats too – am seeing the start of some useful primal data here!

    Sian wrote on March 30th, 2012
    • Glad you enjoyed the chart. I’m a consultant by trade, so we love our data.

      Philip Pham wrote on March 30th, 2012
  21. You look awesome man!

    Gillian wrote on March 30th, 2012
  22. Did it fix your myopia? I notice you’re no longer wearing glasses in the last photo. Man would I love that. Nice six pack, too. :) (or as we say in the French-speaking part of Switzerland, a “tablette de chocolat”)

    Gydle wrote on March 30th, 2012
    • Thanks. Unfortunately, I think the damage has already been done. Robb Wolf mentioned that Paleo led to a super-speedy recovery from LASIK, so I may consider that route. I like the saying “tablette de chocolat” as coincidentally, I probably have a few squares nearly every day.

      Philip Pham wrote on March 30th, 2012
      • Hey Phil, my two cents on LASIK, in case you’re interested: my vision improved on its own from -5.0 to -3.75 after ditching grains (wasn’t primal yet at the time) and supplementing lutein and astaxanthin. I had LASIK done November 2011, at which point I’d been primal (not just grain-free like before) a few months. They said I had the easiest surgery (it literally took 2 minutes for each eye, instead of the usual 10-30) and quickest recovery of anyone they’d ever “LASIKed.” Make sure you get a surgeon who uses the all-laser technique. Have fun. 😉

        Stephanie wrote on March 30th, 2012
  23. Ass to grass squats! I love it! Congratulations. :-)

    Happycyclegirl wrote on March 30th, 2012
  24. Wow, loved that story! Thanks and Congrats! :)

    Lizzy wrote on March 30th, 2012
  25. One of my brothers has been hanging out in China for the last 9 months or so and he’s always trying to tell them to go easy on the rice.

    Just this morning he wrote me about it again and he said, “they think that rice is so nutritious, and so good for you, and without rice they would all spontaneously combust.”

    Peggy The Primal Parent wrote on March 30th, 2012
    • Peggy, that’s what my family used to think about pasta and bread: we’d all die a terrible death from malnutrition without our required daily intake of lots of bread. LOL

      PrimalGrandma wrote on March 30th, 2012
  26. Thanks for sharing this! I need to show this to my husband. He’s Chinese, and is not really open to the idea of ditching rice full-time (or at least 80% of the time). He’s now 21 days into a Whole30, and already his previously lean-ish shape is changing and a 6-pack is being revealed. He’ll love reading this success story!

    Jaclyn wrote on March 30th, 2012
  27. Great job! You look so happy and healthy!

    Crunchy Pickle wrote on March 30th, 2012
  28. Hi you look really good and congrats!
    Yes a study was released just last week linking the development Type 2 Diabetes and increased rice consumption

    Also i did not know high carb was linked to myopia(nearsightedness) too. Interesting!

    Gayle wrote on March 30th, 2012
  29. Thanks for your valuable post. It is a great contribution to Success Stories for the reasons you mention. Congratulations on your success.

    I do a 20% of white rice about once a week. If I did lots of heavy work or workouts, I’d probably do more. I’m not giving it up completely because I’m a stubborn old coot (who contributes to the Forum as Hedonist2.)

    Harry Mossman wrote on March 30th, 2012
  30. Congratulations Mark! I went full bore PB January 20th and have gone from 263 to 226 (6’2″) with NO excercising as I had surgery on my big toe days after. What interests me is your loss of acne. My daughter and her best friend are still SAD I I am encouraging a change to their diet to eliminate their acne. They both are in sports so this helps with weight gain. Thanks for sharing your story as my daughter is having a sleepover tonite and I will not get that “Oh, Daaad!” thing when I share your story.

    Patrick C wrote on March 30th, 2012
  31. Awesome job, man!!

    Mark Cruden wrote on March 30th, 2012
  32. Great story, and great pics. Short, sweet and lasting. Thanks for a great start to my Friday!

    pmpncali wrote on March 30th, 2012
  33. Great job!

    Your success is awesome! Our body composition backgrounds are pretty similar…and while I’ve only been primal for 4 weeks, I too have debated about sharing our (my wife and I’s story) because we both started out in decent shape.

    I also struggles with acne as I was younger and am very happy to tell you that your skin looks great. Congrats!

    Danny wrote on March 30th, 2012
  34. I love Fridays because of these stories. I’ve only just started going Primal (2-3 weeks). One of the biggest changes is my skin. It used to be dry with blemishes/acne (on a low carb, low fat diet) but now it looks so healthy. Fat is awesome!

    Gabby wrote on March 30th, 2012
    • It also looks like Phil’s acne is clearing up. Is it?

      I went off primal for about a month because I was moving, and I feel worse, and my *ahem* monthly hormonal breakout was worse than usual.

      oxide wrote on March 30th, 2012
  35. Thank you for sharing your story, I’m asian too so it’s been really hard for me to drop rice (dropping grains has been relatively easy). Have you noticed any difference in your eyesight since switching to Primal?

    tara wrote on March 30th, 2012
    • But, of course, rice *is* a grain 😉

      Violet wrote on March 31st, 2012
  36. Way to GO! The health benefits are so numerous–I dropped from 185 to 170, but my indigestion/acid reflux totally disappeared!

    It’s the ONLY way to eat and exercise.

    Pastor Dave wrote on March 30th, 2012
  37. Great Job! I have one question though. Who likes Math as a past-time for enjoyment? 😛

    Griffin wrote on March 30th, 2012
    • Isn’t Law #10 “Use your brain”? I’m a pretty weird guy, though, after all. Well, society considers all of us weird.

      Philip Pham wrote on March 30th, 2012
  38. Is it just the lighting, or do you really look best when 6 weeks going on primal? Way too skinny at present for my taste, but a great success of course nonetheless. Congrats!

    einstein wrote on March 30th, 2012
    • It’s not just you…while I applaud the conversion to a Primal lifestyle…and am truly impressed with the vision and skin improvements…one must be vigilant about “veering” too far and possibly losing muscle mass. Your increased energy and fitness improvements are fabulous…but just remember to increase/maintain the fat intake!

      Donna wrote on March 30th, 2012
      • Agreed. In the past 3 months, I’ve upped my food intake and put on somewhere between 5-10 lbs and have gotten stronger.

        Philip Pham wrote on March 30th, 2012
  39. Your story very much inspired me. I am too, Asian (I’m from Thailand). No need to say that rice and noodles are a huge part of my diet since I could remember. Since I started PB two months ago, cutting out rice was extremely challenging. Also, my parents act like it’s a sin that I’m not eating rice. I do not have any results to show yet. But I’m trying to be very patient! Do you have any tips you can share with me?

    Casandra wrote on March 30th, 2012
    • That’s a tough one. I live on my own, and yes, my parents freak out when I tell them about the way I eat. Maybe help out with the cooking? Other than that, maybe you can say it’s for a limited amount of time, say 2 months? Hopefully, by then you’ll have results to show for it. Not sure how science-oriented they are (mine aren’t at all, so this didn’t work for me), but you can show them some of the impressive research on Paleo/Primal.

      Philip Pham wrote on March 30th, 2012

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